The inclusion of Over The Top or OTT (Communication Services) within the ambit of the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 that was unveiled recently for public comments, is a feature that has drawn much attention and comment.
What does this mean?
The main argument behind its inclusion is the principle of “same service, same rules”. Superficially, it seems logical that communication services, whether provided by telcos or OTTs, should be treated similarly. However, this is completely erroneous.
Why is it incorrect?
Why then telcos want the OTT in the new telecom bill?
Quite simply, it is the desire to preserve the arbitrage that exists between voice and data tariffs. In OTT services, the telco gets lower data and not a higher voice/SMS tariff.
Arguments against covering OTT in new telecom bill –
OTT communication services are already covered under the existing IT Act and, presumably, will continue to be so under the proposed Digital India Act. Whether it is encryption, data storage, interception or cooperation with law enforcement, OTTs can be and are regulated — but not licensed or pre-authorised.
Principles based distinction –
Hardly any other country has equated OTT communication services with foundational telecommunication services. Instead, the Government would be well-advised to include whatever controls are deemed necessary in the soon-to-be unveiled Digital India Act.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – Experts have argued that including OTT communication service providers within the ambit of the Telecom Bill is a deeply flawed idea that could seriously compromise the energy, innovation and funding that characterises India’s startup ecosystem today. Comment.